FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – The New England Patriots fended off a late-game assault by the Buffalo Bills and locked up their 11th-straight division title, the longest streak of division titles in NFL history.
The defense made a red zone stand with one minute left in the game, culminating with a pass breakup in the end zone by J.C Jackson on fourth down, as the Bills took their last shot.
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman was taken out of the game to be examined for a possible concussion, but returned to the game late.
The Bills opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 35-yard field goal, with the Patriots answering later on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Matt LaCosse.
Nick Folk knocked through a 36-yard field coal to cap a 91-yard drive in the second quarter to take the 10-3 lead. The teams then exchanged punts before the Bills scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the half.
Folk kicked another in the third quarter but Josh Allen and the Bills answered with a 53-yard touchdown pass.
The Patriots narrowed the Buffalo lead to one point with another field goal and, after Buffalo punted, mounted a 7-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a Rex Burkhead touchdown and a successful two-point conversion to Julian Edelman to take the 24-17 lead.
As the fourth quarter wound down, Buffalo marched down the field in about four minutes, ending up with a first and goal at the Patriots eight-yard line with 2:21 left to play.
After a stuffed run attempt and an incomplete pass, Donta Hightower and Adam Butler sacked Allen on third down to force fourth and goal from the 15 – J.C. Jackson broke up the subsequent pass in the end zone to force a turnover on downs and hand the Patriots the ball, and the win, with little more than a minute left to play.
Tom Brady was 26 of 33 for 271 yards and a touchdown, spreading the ball nearly equally between Burkhead and Julian Edelman, who had 77 and 72 yards, respectively. Sony Michel ran up 96 yards on the ground.
Allen was 13 of 26 for 208 yards, with Cole Beasley accounting for most of the Buffalo passing attack with 108 yards on 12 targets. But John Brown’s lone catch for 53 yards produced one of Buffalo’s touchdowns.
The Patriots, now 12-3, will host the Dolphins next Sunday at 1 p.m. for their final game of the regular season.